In an hour so I going to the annual process of signing up for another iPhone. This has gone on since the iPhone 3G and I’ve always gotten one on launch day. (The old one goes to En, so, yeah… nothing goes to waste)

This time I have more choices than before.

Prior years we had the option of getting the subsidized phone or paying full freight. Other than “because I hate contracts” you would have been silly to take the contract-free phone since the carrier, AT&T in my case, would pitch in $400 or so towards the phone in exchange for a two year commitment. Your rate wouldn’t matter if you brought your own or are under a contract. You may as well get the money.

Now it’s different. The past couple years all the carriers switched to pushing a non-contract option. I’m still not 100% why, but the landscape shifted.

Now, with AT&T I have no fewer than four options.

  • Re-up another 2 year contract and get the subsidy
  • Do the AT&T Next plan and amortize the phone over 12-24 months depending on how you feel
  • Buy it outright (unlocked)
  • Finance it through Apple (unlocked)

In any of these cases I would get AppleCare. AppleCare is one of the few extended warranties I actually like. Most of the time when something breaks they don’t give you a hassle. I like that.

The money outlay after I did the math was just about the same this time — within a few dollars at least.

So today I’ll go with Apple’s interest-free financing. The last option wins today.

The added freedom to change carriers if I want to the the tipping point for me.